Well done tributes are some of RK Motors Charlotte’s favorite cars. More than just a nod to history, they combine the virtues of an era-specific classic with decades of increased technology. This stunning Ford Thunderbolt, a true to form replica that follows a lightweight fiberglass front clip with a built 427, tough Toploader transmission and beefy Currie 9-inch, is about as cool as they come. And if you’re in the market for some instantly recognizable muscle that’s stacked with first class looks and a nasty disposition, you’re reading about your next car!
A series of 100 units produced for the 1964 model year, The Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt was an experimental, drag race only automobile that combined lightweight Fairlane bodies with dual-quad Galaxie motors. Although the Galaxie had proven itself in NASCAR, it was simply too heavy to be drag raced with any significant success. After Ford had stripped the car into a semi-victorious ‘lightweight’, they decided to apply the same formula to the Fairlane. The result was a storied track champion that, when compared to the Galaxie, was 3 inches shorter, weighed 700 pounds less and unofficially produced over 600 horsepower.
Not surprisingly, this awesome Fairlane drove out of Ford’s Dearborn assembly plant at the beginning of the great American performance wars. After spending a short time as random showroom candy, it began a long life of solid maintenance and back road workout routines. And today, covered in a familiar coat of Vintage Burgundy two-stage, it sits as the beneficiary of a thorough, frame-off restoration that was conducted on solid, original bones. Pull the car into the harsh winter sun and you’ll see good looking paintwork that presents well from every angle. Underneath that paint, the body’s Kansas-flat panels say a lot about the integrity of their platform. And overall, that platform’s alignment rates well above anything the factory offered, featuring even gaps and tight closing hinges all the way around.
Like many of Detroit’s toughest muscle cars, this Ford hides brilliant mechanical prowess behind purposely simple style. A good first glance notes a profile that, from its modified headlights to its chrome rear bumper, features a nice mix of correct and ergonomic accents. Less obvious from that glance is weight-saving fenders and a correctly pinned hood that features a familiar teardrop scoop. At the front of that fiberglass clip, bright halogen headlights and a wide stainless grille frame a painted fiberglass bumper and functional air ducts. Sprinkled down the car’s fuselage you’ll find traditional door handles, gold fender scripts, white-inlayed trim and a chrome driver’s mirror. At the top of that fuselage, like-new glass rides inside polished stainless borders, bright stainless wipers and classy C-pillar emblems. And behind that glass, rocket-inspired tail lights frame silver trunk trim, a stylish “Fairlane 500” emblem and a broad chrome bumper.
When Dearborn brass decided to shove beefy big blocks into mid-size Fairlanes, they probably had a hard time keeping a straight face. And, when you get behind the wheel of this new age Thunderbolt, you’ll understand exactly why. Unpin the aforementioned hood and you’ll find an aluminum Shelby FE V8 that’s been bored and stroked to 482 cubic inches of raw, big block power! At full throttle, oxygen flows through large, forward-mounted ducts into a finned, Thunderbird-style air box and modern Holley carburetors. Below those carburetors, a smooth aluminum intake props a chrome Ford filler behind fresh plug wires and a traditional points distributor. At the sides of that distributor, mirrored and “427” branded valve covers reflect awesome, intertwined headers. And in front of those headers, a factory radiator leads a Carter fuel pump, a Shelby water pump and a small overflow tank. Visually, the clean V8 is a mass of bright castings that are properly seated in a Satin Black engine bay. And items like new fuel lines, pliable coolant hoses and fresh tower clamps round out a trophy worthy display.
Take a peek under this Ford and you’ll find an exceptionally clean chassis that’s punctuated by Satin Black floors and, in traditional Thunderbolt fashion, a substantially re-engineered suspension. At the center of that suspension, a road-ready Toploader 4-speed proves just as effective as ever at slinging gears and scorching stoplights. That transmission channels power to a 9-inch Currie rear end, which exchanges a brutal 4.58 factory set up for mild, 3.55 cruisers. Torque meets the pavement through polished Radir Tri-Ribb IIIs, which spin 6.40-15 Firestone Deluxe Champions in front of 7.75-15 Radir Cheater Slicks. Spent gases follow aluminized, true-dual pipes to either polished, solenoid-activated cut-outs or dual-chamber Magnaflow mufflers. There’s a rebuilt steering system that combines with manual front disc and rear drum brakes to make turns easy and stopping a cinch. And everything, from this Fairlane’s factory-inspired scatter shield to its fresh stainless fuel tank, performs as good, or better, than when the car rolled off the assembly line.
Between the standard steel doors, a Light Beige Metallic interior strikes a nice balance of authenticity and livability. While the lightweight bucket and bench seats may not look like the lap of luxury, a brief stint behind the wheel reveals a comfortable and compliant ride. Correct rubber flooring frames a correct chrome shifter opposite a tight headliner that’s fitted with standard sun visors. The dash is stock, hanging factory telemetry and correct deletes between a big tachometer, a small Auto Meter oil gauge and a correct glove box disclaimer tag. In front of the driver, an ornate factory steering wheel provides a touch of class. At the sides of the passengers, correct, armrest-free door panels feature bright stainless trim and standard chrome handles. And behind the cockpit, a vast trunk correctly locates a tagged battery on the right side of a brand new mat.
There simply aren’t that many chances to own a clean, well-done Thunderbolt – especially at this price. With its killer V8, slick drivetrain and trim body, this Ford is guaranteed to be a blast to drive. If you’re looking for a different kind of muscle car, one that places substance over form, this awesome Fairlane belongs in your garage!